The first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying human passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy and was built by the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. These brothers came from a family of paper manufacturers and had noticed ash rising in paper fires. The Montgolfier brothers gave their first public demonstration of their invention on June 4, 1783. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first tethered balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 19, 1783 with the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud de Villette, at the Folie Titon in Paris.
The first untethered, free flight with human passengers was on 21 November 1783. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with the Marquis François d'Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor. For this occasion the diameter of the balloon rose to almost 50 feet, with a smoky fire slung under the neck of the balloon placed in an iron basket; it was controllable and replenishable by the balloonists. In 25 minutes the two men traveled just over five miles. Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far, but burning embers from the fire threatened to engulf the balloon and the men decided to land as soon as they were over open countryside.
News of the balloon flights spread quickly. By December 1783 Goethe wrote to a friend on Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian Bucholz's attempt in Weimar "to master the art of Montgolfier". The pioneering work of the Montgolfier brothers in developing the hot air balloon was recognised by this type of balloon being named Montgolfière after them.
Often in the early years of ballooning, when seeing a large object descend from the sky, spectators would grow angry or afraid and attack the balloonists with pitchforks, thus destroying their balloons and chasing off the balloonists. A tradition was formed where balloonists would carry champagne on their flights and offer a toast call “The Balloonists Prayer” to spectators to set their minds at ease.
THE BALLOONIST’S PRAYER:
THE WINDS HAVE WELCOMED YOU WITH SOFTNESS.
THE SUN HAS BLESSED YOU WITH ITS WARM HANDS.
WE HAVE FLOWN SO HIGH AND SO WELL THAT GOD
HAS JOINED YOU IN LAUGHTER AND SET YOU GENTLY
BACK INTO THE LOVING ARMS OF MOTHER EARTH.